A memoir of survival
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". . . a simple unadorned history that doesn’t veer into sentimentality or linger on horrific atrocities."
Roman’s Journey : A Holocaust survivor’s journey from peace through war.
Roman Halter, Romek to his family, is the youngest child born to an upper middle class Jewish family from Chodecz. For the first twelve years of his life, Roman is happy in the world he knows among his friends and school fellows—ethnic Germans, Poles and Jews. He goes to public school among Catholics and learns Hebrew from his grandfather, a holy man, thriving in a simple and safe world until the day Hitler invaded Poland.
Roman is lucky. He is chosen to be a servant to the Oberst, the commandant in charge of Chodecz, rising before dawn to slop the hogs and perform the tasks assigned to him until the day he is sent to a nearby farm for provisions for a party. On the way back the following day, Roman watches from hiding while his Jewish friends are beaten and murdered. He goes back to Chodecz and tells no one what he saw, a sight that haunts him the rest of his life.
The next day, Roman and his family are sent to the Jewish ghettoes in Lodz where they starved and worked, praying for deliverance. It is the first stop on a journey that will take the next five years of Roman’s life, stripping him of his family and everything he knows except hope as he is cast adrift on a sea of prisoners and refugees.
Unlike many autobiographies by Holocaust survivors, Roman’s Journey is a simple unadorned history that doesn’t veer into sentimentality or linger on horrific atrocities. Instead Roman Halter does what his mother asked of him: he writes without judgment – most of the time. It is impossible not to judge brutality, but Roman Halter judges very little. What he does with winning simplicity and a clear young voice is chronicle his life and travels through war-torn Poland, Austria and Germany, from the safe haven of his early years, into the heart of the ghettoes of Lodz and on to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dresden during his teenage years.
Roman’s Journey is a straightforward, compelling slice of life before, during and after Nazi Germany’s bloody and brutal campaign, a quiet, genuine voice, a ringing clarion call.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell